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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One of the pioneers of quantum computing warns that industry hype is getting ahead of actual performance.

Why it matters: Quantum holds the promise of revolutionizing computing. But there are still enormous hardware and software challenges that need to be overcome.

Driving the news: Last week the Association of Computing Machinery awarded its $250,000 ACM Prize to Scott Aaronson, a professor at the University of Texas, for his "groundbreaking contributions to quantum computing."

  • Aaronson helped develop the concept of quantum supremacy, a technical milestone that can only be achieved when a quantum device proves capable of solving a problem that no classical computer could solve in a reasonable amount of time.

Yes, but: Despite his technical bona fides — or perhaps because of them — Aaronson expressed skepticism about how far the quantum computing industry has come so far when it comes to achieving what it advertises.

  • "What's happened over the last decade is that there have been a tremendous number of claims about the more immediate things you can do with a quantum computer, like solve all these machine learning problems," says Aaronson.
  • "But these claims are about 90% bullsh*t."

Details: Aaronson argues that much of what quantum computing companies are doing can still be done as well or better on the best classical computers — which is precisely what happened after Google claimed quantum supremacy on a problem in 2019.

  • To Aaronson, quantum computing has yet to reach the transistor level — the equivalent of the second-generation of classical computers, which entered use in the mid-1950s.
  • "We are barely into the equivalent of vacuum tubes," he says.

The bottom line: Aaronson is still bullish on the long-term future of quantum computing hardware, which has seen "unbelievable progress over the last 20–25 years."

  • But to get further, he says, "you're going to need some revolutionary new development."

Read next: Will quantum computing ever live up to its hype?

Go deeper

Pentagon approves request for 100 National Guard troops for "Justice for J6" rally

Security fencing has been reinstalled around the Capitol. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has approved a request from Capitol Police to provide 100 D.C. National Guard troops in case law enforcement requires additional support at Saturday's "Justice for J6" rally at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Security preparations have ramped up ahead of the pro-Trump demonstration, where hundreds of protesters sympathetic to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack are expected to gather.

Biden threatens new sanctions against Ethiopian officials over Tigray conflict

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

President Biden on Friday signed an executive order allowing the Treasury and State Departments to impose sanctions against Ethiopian officials "responsible for, or complicit in, prolonging the conflict" in the Tigray region.

Driving the news: Hundreds of thousands of people are facing famine conditions in Tigray, but less than 10 percent of the needed humanitarian supplies has reached the region over the last month "due to the obstruction of aid access" by the Ethiopian government, according to Biden administration officials.

Top general: Calls to China were "perfectly within the duties" of job

Gen. Mark Milley. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley told the Associated Press on Friday that calls with his Chinese counterpart during the final months of Donald Trump's presidency were "perfectly within the duties and responsibilities" of his job.

Why it matters: In his first public comments on the calls that have prompted critics to question whether the general went too far, Milley maintained that such conversations are "routine," per AP.